I am sitting in Starbucks and I'm writing. Except I'm not. I'm at that part of writing, near the end of it, close to the deadline, where I can't really look at the WIP straight in the face. I open the window with the words, my words, and then I flick quickly away to Twitter. I flick back but I can't really look at it, so while I type, I look around the room. Then I flick away again. I check my mail. I read someone else's blog post. I check the list of forthcoming books that I want to read. I flick back and write more, in little fits and starts like a car that's not going to make it to the top of the hill and then suddenly it does and coasts down for a while. Then I flick away and shop for an iPad case even though I don't need one, because I want one that clamps on to my rowing machine and no one has made one yet and then I think about inventing one, an iPad case for rowing machines and then I think, No, it's too late, someone has already done that.
And besides, I don't invent things.
Then I need to use the washroom but I don't want to ask someone to look after my laptop and so I close it to take it with me but I don't want to lose my good seat and so I open it again and like a little kid, convince myself that I don't need a washroom, and I'd leave the laptop but someone just last week in this same Starbucks had their laptop stolen, but that probably means mine is safe because what are the odds of it happening twice?
And this is writing.
I write a blog post. This blog post. I think about word counts. I think about birds and how they never really fly at people and start pecking their eyes, but they COULD, right? I think about the laundry at home that needs doing. I check the time. I feel a bubble of panic. I think about camping and marshmallows and fires. I don't do wordcount goals but I know how many words I've done today and it's not enough and I'll be up late tonight and I also still have to finish MockingJay and then I think about how much I love this life because this is the exact life that I chose, that I want.
This is how it is. The deadlines, looming, forcing me to force the book into the shape the book must be in. The ideas slowly threading together and then taking over from my hands to knit themselves the way they want to be knit. This crazy idea that after all this forcing and procrastinating, the story DOES write itself.
I don't know how it happens, but it does.
At night, I whisper stories in the dark to the kids. The stories are all made up but the kids provide the ingredients. "What's it about?" I whisper. "Me," they always say. "And Diego. And a puddle. And a robot. And a... RAINBOW CAKE."
So I tell them the story. I used to tell them the story.
And now they are starting to tell me their own stories. They are more creative in those moments than I will ever be because there is no boundary in their imaginations, they never stop and say, "No, wait, that can't happen." They don't delete. They just keep going. They don't care about Twitter or Flickr or Anthropolgie's fall catalogue (and neither do I, not really, but I still look).
In that moment, they see only Diego. And a puddle. And a robot. And a rainbow cake.
"And then there is a mermaid. And the mermaid has a carousel that we can ride and then there is a rainbow cake. And a waterfall. And then I say to Dora, 'Now we're friends, let's go to the park.' And so we do. And there's a bad guy there. And suddenly a whale jumps out of the water. And he EATS THE BAD GUY!"
Their stories tell themselves. I watch their faces while they whisper, eyes wide, like they are surprised by what happens next. I watch them and I want to write it all down and then I forget and I don't and all those ideas fade away and I'm already sad about the time when they start to self-edit and self-doubt and the first day that they sit down to write a story and say, "I can't think of anything to write" because right now, they are just so full of all those words, all those stories, that they can't stop themselves from telling just one more and just one more and just one more. All those words tripping over each other to come out.
Starting a new book is always like that. Here are the ingredients. The words pouring out, surprising me. It's the endings that are more of a job. A real job. Work.
But the most rewarding work I know. So I'm doing it. Now.
The trick is to still all the other voices, to make myself look at it full-on, to still be surprised by what it says when I finally force myself to look at the screen with the internet shut down and all the other noises hushed.